Miami Heat’s shaky start to the 2017-18 season: what gives?

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 28: James Johnson
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 28: James Johnson /

What’s up with the Miami Heat’s shaky start to their 2017-18 campaign?

Lately, the Miami Heat have looked like a discombobulated, alternate version of themselves. Maybe not altogether lesser, but certainly different enough to have people asking, what gives?

A valid question, but one that seemingly doesn’t have a clear-cut answer.

For one, it’s far too early in the season to really get a feel for the 2017-18 squad.

Having only played five games, the team still needs time to develop chemistry. Although the Heat’s core more or less remained intact, even throwing Kelly Olynyk in the mix was enough to offset things. Nevermind that while Justise Winslow’s return is a positive, he has yet to figure out his new role. So it’s only natural for Miami to look a bit off balance, especially given the league’s shortened preseason.

Not to mention a five game sample size just isn’t enough to make any sweeping generalizations, period.

Then there’s the simple fact that injuries have once again plagued the Heat.

Perhaps not in the same capacity as last year, but enough to throw a wrench in head coach Erik Spoelstra’s offensive and defensive plans.

While those less familiar with the team may not see Rodney McGruder’s absence as all that critical, Heat Nation knows better. McGruder is the type of player whose stat-line never truly represents all he contributes to the team. A defensive monster, he also sets a rhythm on offense, further helping the team’s ball-movement. Losing him to a leg fracture was a huge blow to Miami, unfortunately already setting them back a step before the season began.

Hassan Whiteside has also been out the last four games, sidelined with a bruised knee bone. While the Heat may not technically operate under the premise of having a go-to superstar, there’s no denying that Whiteside headlines this group. A force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor, Miami has a 7-foot void to fill without him; a near-impossible task. Whiteside is supposed to return any day now, however.

But an ailing Dion Waiters may be the biggest loss of them all. Having chosen not to undergo ankle surgery over the summer, Waiters is now left to deal with constant discomfort. And even though he claims he’ll have no problem overcoming it, that’s easier said than done. He already seems to have lost some of his confidence to the bad ankle, which of course in turn has affected his game. The worse news being there’s no telling how long it’ll take to shake that off.

The Heat have also temporarily lost their 3-ball touch.

Known for their lights out shooting from downtown last year, Miami hasn’t been able to rely on that offensive strategy so far. At least not consistently. For example, in their opener against the Orlando Magic, the team went just 8-of-30 from beyond-the-arc. An embarrassing stat for anyone, but especially a group who usually dominates the 3-ball. It’s true that they then redeemed themselves over their next two matchups, making 14 3’s a piece. But that redemption didn’t last long, because on Saturday night versus the Boston Celtics, the Heat went just 7-for-31.

Although Goran Dragic is shooting 42.1 percent from 3, guys like Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson haven’t been able to keep up. Johnson is only shooting 25.0 percent, with Richardson currently at 33.3 percent. Even Wayne Ellington, a guy famous for his 3-point shot, is struggling. He may have gone 6-of-8 against the Atlanta Hawks, but went just 1-of-6 in the loss to Boston.

Next: Missed opportunities haunt Miami Heat in loss to Boston Celtics

The Miami Heat may still have some things to figure out, but fans shouldn’t panic just yet. With 2017-18 play just starting up, there’s plenty of time for them to shape up.